Can the Pace of Privatization be Slowed Down?

Can the Pace of Privatization be Slowed Down?

In his collection of essays on Indian economy, Amartya Sen discusses the centrality of the institution of education in democracies. India’s treatment of the educational sector, especially at the elementary level, for Sen, shows “the alarming story of sustained neglect”.

The PROBE Report of 1999 point towards few of these causes of the shift from Government to Private schools: at the rudimentary level, teacher absenteeism, shirking from duties, reduced teaching activity etc. seem to the reason for the shift.

The deteriorating standards, the lack of quality are the more serious charges against the functioning of governmental schools in the Report. Problems ranging from state under-funding to failure in the delivery of education, from laid-back attitude of teachers to verging-on-zero accountability towards students, are the reasons for the current educational scenario in India.

 Julia Wessels’ 2011 Study notes that “Governmental schools cost the taxpayers approximately ₹800 per child, every month while the average amount collected from a child studying in Private schools is Rs.241, per child.” Despite the higher unit costs, governmental schools produce lower outputs than their counterpart (Dr. Josephine Yazali).

Private schools, since they’ve lesser funds, learn to use it appropriately. Since their revenue’s source is the student’s parental income, to ensure it’s continual, they are under pressure to keep a steady academic performance. This can be ascertained by the teaching staff, who, because they’ve temporary appointments, work accordingly; their contacts will be withdrawn if they fail to perform as required and expected. Private schools, thus, have to keep in mind the child’s progress – even if it’s for their own benefit.

The structure of education in existence has been condemned by many, mostly from those against the privatization of education. Education is to be seen as a “public good”. This means that, atleast at the primary level, it has to free so as to be accessible to the poorest of poor. India has been following the tradition of democratic socialism since Nehru. This tradition’s intentions may be noble but it has met with a range of criticism for its inefficient, corrupt and monopolistic tendencies.

Jandhyala Tilak argues in favor of subsidized public education. Education, for him, “produces a magnitude of externalities” and benefits, few of which are: improvement in health, reduction in poverty and crime, equitable distribution of resources and income, ensuring civil liberties etc. These externalities “constitute a powerful justification for educational subsidies”. Public financing of governmental schools and providing free education at the primary level of schooling is therefore, beneficial for the society as a whole.

Moreover, the problem of affordability is accompanied with private schools. Unable to pay the high fees, poor households would be forced to abandon education altogether which would result in perpetuation of the existing class and caste hierarchies.

The inability of the country’s residents to recognize the necessity to invest in education is an age-old reason for the circumstances we find ourselves in. It remains a crucial factorial cause of the present scene of rampant illiteracy.

Little measures such as teacher and school accountability, comprehensive nature of examinations instead of rote-based nature of questions, content of the syllabus in accordance with the age-group, have to come into play to ensure the improvement in standards of the education that’s currently offered by governmental schools.

Article by Maitriyee Zaveri, Intern, Yes! I Am Happy